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Duke Nursing Students Prepare For Births With Patient Simulator

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DURHAM, N.C. — Eighty-five percent of the hospitals in the United States said they do not have enough nurses. There are more than 118,000 nursing job vacancies. As students prepare for some of those jobs at Duke University's School of Nursing, part of their training is at the bedside of one female patient.

Noel Sims, a patient simulator, can give birth once every 12 minutes. Students can even place their hand on her belly and feel her contractions. They have to be prepared to deliver a baby even when a doctor is not in the room to take over. A computer-controlled mechanism inside slowly pushes the baby out, followed by a simulated placenta.

The Helene Fold Trust Laboratory for Patient Simulation is part of a brand new state-of-the-art nursing school at Duke University. Doctors and nurses used to do all their obstetric training with either stiff mannequins that did not move or with live patients. Now, they have patient simulators like Noel to actually deliver a simulation baby named Little Ricky.

"This is critically important to ensure patient safety for our students once they go into a hospital," said Judith Hays, a registered nurse and associate professor and chair of the School of Nursing program.

The school offers an undergraduate second-degree accelerated learning program. Students come in with a wide variety of college and career backgrounds. They need at least a bachelor's degree and receive training in 14 different specialties. It is an intensive 16-month course of consecutive semesters.

In the birthing bed, Noel Sims can have unpredictable births.

"She can give birth to Little Ricky breach, which would be the rear-end first," Hays said.

Students are careful to communicate with the mother, calm her emotions and at the same time, keep their attention on the progress of the simulation baby. The experience prepares them to jump into a nursing job market that can't wait to hire them.

"Then, really, the world is their oyster. They have opportunities all over the country and really all over the world," Hays said.

If you would like more information on the Duke School of Nursing, you can go to its

Web site



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